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Communal Violence Bill was brought by the UPA to ensure accountability from public servants as per article 14 and 21 of the Constitution. But it was dropped in February 2014. And the country continues to wait for an effective anti-riots law

Monu, a resident of Brahmpuri, didn’t go home after he was discharged from Guru Teg Bahadur (GTB) Hospital on Wednesday. Despite swollen face and grievous injuries in his head and other body parts, he kept waiting all through the day to take his father’s body home after the autopsy.

When a flash mob of rioters attacked them on a deserted road, he along with his father was looking for a chemist store to get medicine for his ailing baby. His father was stoned to death on the spot and their bike was set ablaze. “I kept crying for help but no one came forward for hours,” recalled Monu, his head wrapped in bandages.

Struggling through tears and a sense of being alone, he added, “I can’t think of getting on with life without him. Now, I’ve no one to support me.”

Outside the hospital mortuary, there were people from both the communities, anxiously waiting to take possession of the bodies. A tent has been pitted on the hospital premises to provide them shelter.

“My Abba (Pervez Alam) was a social worker. With the help of people from all religions, he was helping poor children to study. He helped at least 500 poor senior citizens get cataract surgery. He was there to help every needy person irrespective of their religion. I can show you the record of past 20 years… He took a bullet at the doorsteps of our home,” said an inconsolable Mohammed Sahil, 26, a resident of north Gonda, who was also waiting for the release of his father’s body from the mortuary.

“I repeatedly requested police with folded hands to rush my father to the hospital. He was bleeding profusely but they didn’t help. I brought him to the hospital at my own. The delay lead to the loss of blood and ultimately his death,” he said, adding that “On reaching the hospital, by the time I returned to him after consulting blood bank officials, my father had been wrapped in a shroud.”

Adamant on taking his father’s body to their ancestral home in Muzaffarnagar for the last rites, he said, “There is threat to the lives of our relatives in Delhi. Who would have thought such communal riots would happen in Delhi! Now, nobody can convince us the riots won’t get repeated here… I’m running from one police station to another. No one is cooperating.”

Mohammad Rashid and Irfan Elvi were yet to overcome the shock. They were also waiting for the body of their cousin, Mohammad Shahid, to be handed over to them. Shahid, 21, was an auto driver from Mustafabad. He is said to have got married four months ago. His wife is pregnant and now clueless about the future of the baby.

“Police have been demanding Rs 4000 for video recording the post-mortem before they hand over the body. We are poor, we don’t have the money. Why should we pay for the post-mortem related things? What was the fault of the deceased? He was innocent,” lamented Rashid, who was waiting for the body for the last three days.

A policeman, who was coordinating with the medical board for the post-mortem, said “The board gives Rs 4000 to the videographer for each body. Moreover, the board works during specific hours of the day, which is causing delay.”

According to a manual of Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, Jawaharlal Institute of Post-Graduate Medical Education and Research, “Video-filming and photography of the post-mortem examination should be done by a person trained in forensic photography and videography. A good quality digital camera with 10X optical zoom and minimum 10 mega pixels should be used.”

“At the time of video-filming of the post-mortem examination, the doctor should narrate his prima-facie observations while conducting the post-mortem examination,” it adds. “A total of 20-25 coloured photographs covering the whole body should be taken, focusing on each injury. Photographs should be taken after incorporating the post-mortem number, date of examination and a scale for dimensions in the frame of photographs itself.”

Medicolegal death investigation agencies have to provide autopsy report to investigative agencies-police and magistrate under section 176 CrPC as per standard operative procedures in forensic medicine and toxicology. It helps to establish the cause of death besides ensuring factual and objective medical information for law enforcing agencies and the court.

Devastated family members of those gone missing in the riots have also been making rounds of the mortuary. Ramsumirat Paswan’s worst fears came true when he found his missing son’s body at the mortuary of GTB hospital on Thursday. He is a rickshaw puller and his son, Nitish, was hardly 15.

On Friday, the death toll from the days of deadliest religious violence that the national capital has seen in decades, rose to 42. More than 200 people have suffered injuries in the violence that raged in the areas over the last few days.

Even though Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday, February 27, announced financial compensation for the victims and free medical treatment for the injured, several other issues remain undressed.

Incidentally, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath told state assembly on Tuesday, February 25, that the state government has no provision to compensate families of people who die in “riot-related incidents”. At least 21 people were killed in the violence during anti-CAA protests in his state December last year. But his government had claimed that none of them died of police bullets.

With a focus on accountability from public servants and articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution, Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill was cleared by a parliamentary select committee in 2006 after the genocidal pogrom of Gujarat in 2002.

It was reviewed in 2010 and redrafted in 2011. But the Bill was dropped in February, 2014 following fierce debate in the Parliament. Reason: Opposition parties including the BJP and the Left argued that the proposed legislation undermined the federal structure by encroaching upon the right of state governments to maintain law and order.

The proposed law had provisions to ensure that the culture of inaction, complicity and absence of accountability when it comes to the protection of life and property of the vulnerable and margianalised ends and public servants can be held accountable for a dereliction of duty.

Usually, the relief that the victims get is decided by the state governments on an ad hoc and sometimes discriminatory basis. Another important feature in the proposed law filled the lacuna of compensation. Sections 90 and 102 of the Bill had prescribed an equal entitlement to relief, reparation, restitution and compensation for all persons who suffer physical, mental, psychological or monetary harm.

It had also envisaged the creation of a ‘National Authority for Communal Harmony, Justice and Reparation’ for the effective implementation of the proposed law.

In the absence of an anti-riots law in the country, the victims largely find themselves all alone at the time of the tragedy and even afterwards in their protracted legal battle for the justice.

(The writer is a Delhi based freelance journalist)


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